Parade of laughs
Radio comedian Frazer Smith to podcast the Rose Parade from CityWalk
By Carl Kozlowski 12/25/2012
As one of the Southland’s most comically inventive radio hosts, Frazer Smith has spent the past 35 years poking good-natured fun at the Rose Parade with snarky commentary on stations such as KROQ and KLOS.
But when his usual stations didn’t express interest this year in airing his sometimes acerbic commentary, Smith, who regularly performs at the Ice House, decided to beat the system by shifting his focus to the cutting-edge world of Internet radio.
On Tuesday morning — as the Rose Parade passes by crowds of up to 750,000 people, airing before 39 million viewers on TV nationwide and broadcast in nearly 200 countries — Smith will be at the Jon Lovitz Podcast Theater and Comedy Club at Universal CityWalk. There, he and co-host Peter Crabbe, a comic actor and writer who’s worked frequently with Monty Python and its members, will be teaming up to watch the parade on an onstage giant screen, adding their own unique brand of play-by-play to the proceedings, which will stream on the Internet via UStream and at the Lovitz club’s site.
In addition, CityWalk will air Smith and Crabbe’s commentary, along with parade footage, on the outdoor shopping complex’s giant video screen. The event features a free breakfast of bagels, donuts and coffee, adding to a festive atmosphere that Smith hopes will kick the New Year off with a party vibe, while sparing attendees the cold weather and frustrations of being trapped in crowds along the parade route.
“For 30 years, we’ve done the Rose Parade alternative coverage on various So Cal radio stations, telling people to tune in on TV, but to turn the sound down and listen to our radio feed,” recalls Smith. “I started doing it in 1977, when I arrived in Pasadena, working at the old KROQ studios. And back then, I worked on it with the guys from [the famed comedy troupe], Firesign Theatre. A couple of times, the station got us a booth on the parade route, but the Tournament [of Roses] folks weren’t happy, since we were ripping them apart.”
Actually, Smith admits he has never really tried to be mean in his parade commentary, instead keeping it “wacky, like ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000,’” a reference to a long-running Comedy Central series in which performers joked over terrible old movies as they were screened. Over the ensuing years, he also did the commentary for KLOS, the now-closed KMEG and KLSX (which is now Amp Radio).
“One year, the parade officials tried to get us kicked off the parade route, but fans were listening in on radio and were going crazy, not allowing them to kick us out,” Smith recalls. “The Tournament folks were in white suits, wanting to kick us out of the booth for making fun of the parade and, in particular, for making fun of their little Moped scooters. The parade route crowd shouted them down and made it so they couldn’t kick us out. The entire grandstand was on our side.”
Smith’s parade commentary builds upon his already-existing podcast on Lovitz’s GoCast network. He feels that traditional “terrestrial” radio has become “safe and predictable,” and notes that the truly daring talents, like comics Marc Maron and Adam Carolla, are finding their own models for enormous success via the Internet.
“Podcasts are what’s driving people to the comedy clubs now, because comics can cater directly to their audience in a podcast and say whatever they want,” says Smith. “The guys with podcasts are the ones who are uncensored, who are able to have a complete party vibe. And that’s what we’re bringing everyone on New Year’s Day.”
Frazer Smith and Peter Crabbe will host comedic live commentary about the Rose Parade from 8 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at Jon Lovitz Comedy Club, located at Universal CityWalk, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. Admission is free and includes free breakfast. Parking is free for two hours, and then $3 with validation. The commentary will also be available via live Internet streaming at UStream.com and GoCastnetwork.com.